If you suffer damage to your home or personal property, you may be able to deduct these “casualty” losses on your federal income tax return. A casualty is a sudden, unexpected or unusual event, such as a natural disaster (hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake, etc.), fire, accident, theft or vandalism. A casualty loss doesn’t include […]
When you need help with water damage (or fire, smoke or mold mitigation) the number one service provider we’ve used on numerous occasions is – SERVPRO.
This team of experts gets the job done right, limiting the extent of the damages “Like it never even happened.” They arrived quickly, knew what to do, and decreased our stress load as a result of it. If a house lift is not in your future, but flooding is – keep this company in mind.
If in metro New York, call (800) 967 – 6663. Tell them Robin sent you.
National number: 1 – 800 – SERVPRO
ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END – Fortunately, so do house renovation projects.
Just over a year ago this blog was initiated as a means to document our house elevation for flood mitigation project. It was also designed to assist anyone with similar flooding woes with some options and an accurate portrayal of all that is involved in an undertaking of this magnitude.
“Whatever good things we build end up building us.”
What makes this project – with its headaches, expenses, approvals from city, country and state officials, and occasional grief from some neighbors all worth it? When those big storms have come to town, we’ve been able to sleep and maintain only a casual interest in how much rain was falling.
Our era of flooding, repairing a damaged home and rebuilding again is over. Now that this project is complete, I’m off to another topic. I will be updating this site on a very limited basis. Thank you to everyone who took the time to explore this blog.
FINAL STEPS TO COMPLETION: The house project finally completed, the only thing left to do is fill in the landscape.
As the former landscape was completely destroyed during the process, we were starting with a clean slate. The front yard just after our house elevation project –
AFTER: A few trips to some local nursery’s, viewing of other lifted homes, and a bit of research on the web and we made our decisions. Sod was an easy call as it goes in so fast and we only needed to cover a small area.
THE VERY NEXT DAY: A storm whipped into town dropping a lot of rainfall. At first it was welcomed as a huge boost to our new sod, which needs to be watered – a lot – in the first few weeks. Mother nature came at just the right time.
But the rain continued. It rained and rained. Flood warnings were issued. We sat snug in our newly lifted house. But our new sod did not fare so well …
The homes across the street suffered minor basement flooding, but the water never reached our house, just the front yard.
SUN SHINES AGAIN:
In the photo above note how the red maple plays off the red hue of the rocks; it’s height helps to off-set the tall foundation. A cypress was added to the planting bed in the stair design to provide year round interest.
JULY 2014: Flood insurance is a hot topic at the moment, the product is in flux. When the Biggert-Waters Act was signed into law in 2012, it was met with criticism and concern. This law set to remedy the long standing subsidized flood insurance rates that had subsequently bankrupted FEMA to the tune of 20 BILLION dollars.
PRIVATE INSURANCE VS. FEMA: Home owners cried foul and pleaded for mercy as their rates were about to spiral out of control. Stepping in to combat the rate hikes was the introduction of private insurance, first in Florida and then spanning out across the country to include 15 states (as of this time).
Private insurance is written by Lloyd’s of London. Although they offer an alternative, with very competitive rates, my concern would be what happens if a catastrophic storm hits, àla Super Storm Sandy? If a private insurance company goes bankrupt – you could be out of luck in terms of receiving reimbursements. If FEMA backed insurance accumulates too many losses, they dig into the money bags of the USA government. Whose likely to run out of money first?
The entire goal of flood insurance, any insurance, is to make it self-sustaining. For that to happen, the rates must reflect the true risk involved.
PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNS INTO LAW A FLOOD INSURANCE RELEIF ACT: In March of 2014, after much outcry from the constituents of flood weary states, the government backed down from it’s initial aggressive stance on curbing subsidized flood insurance rates. Essentially this law caps flood insurance premium rate hikes and passes on subsided rates to people buying homes in flood zones.
Flood insurance rates still need to be adjusted to better reflect the true risk of the home in a flood zone. Without it, people will continue to build, buy and live in a flood risk area, exposing the taxpayer to a significant burden. With the ever increasing rise in ocean levels, this is a real concern – for everybody.
BEST SOLUTION that I’m a big fan of: house elevation for flood mitigation. Your house is protected, your insurance rates drop dramatically, and you move from being a part of the problem to a part of the solution. Without a doubt, that is much easier said then done. Researchers, economists and lawmakers alike all favor this idea. The problem is implementing this expensive notion on a grand scale.
If the above house were elevated, the only thing the home owner would need to do is move their car.
Our house elevation project is almost complete. The next step is the exterior painting aspect. What do you need to know? Top 5 tips for painting the exterior of a house:
1. TEMPERATURE: Ideally, exterior painting will take place when the temperatures are going to remain above 50 degrees, even at night. Otherwise you are likely to get peeling.
Once the temperatures warm up, you can tackle that exterior paint job. Below, our hand-made iron railing system finally gets painted.
2. GET AT LEAST 3 BIDS: With three bids you’ll see what the fair market value is for the job. After our house elevation, the house is pretty high. How are they going to paint it safely? I didn’t want to have any surprises in terms of injuries or the price once the job began.
3. POWER WASH and PREP: The integrity and longevity of your paint job hinges on the preparation phase. Make certain you’re painters don’t skimp on this stage. Our house is made of cedar shingle, so it had to be handled a bit more delicately than other exterior finishes, or the shingles could break. The preparation is the most time-consuming part, but also vitally important. Cracks need to be filled, nail holes covered, etc.
House gets a full power wash
The power wash rids the house of any dirt, mold or debris that may have built up over the years. Cedar shingle homes are susceptible to mold in areas that get little sunlight or excessive moisture.
As with any natural wood product, there is always going to be some variation in the color tone of the shingles. For a more homogenous look, shingles can be painted.
4. USE LATEX PAINT: Make sure the paint you choose is designed for exterior use and is latex based. Some paint companies may try to use oil-based paint for the trim, but this is an outdated practice. Following the adage of wine before beer – prime before paint. Both will provide for better results.
BEFORE: Back porch post and deck railings
5. WATCH THE WEATHER: The exterior of your house will need to be dry before the paint can be applied AND after the house had been painted the weather will ideally stay dry for at least a few days. If Mother Nature is taking requests, ask for sunny skies with no wind.
CEDAR SHINGLES: We opted not to paint the shingles. Over the next few years, the older shingles and the newer shingles will blend in tone. We left the shingles bare to allow for color change. We spruced-up the front door and the garage door, starting with a power wash and followed up with a stain to enhance the wood.
Now for some landscaping ….
TIMELINE OF INSURANCE RATE ADJUSTMENT: June 2013: we officially started the construction phase of our house project. (The planning phase began July 2012)
December 2013: We moved back into our house with the majority of our project complete.
February 2014: All paperwork and certificates related to our building project were closed out. Project officially declared complete. (Still lacking minor details such as exterior painting and any landscaping, but too cold to address those issues now).
March 2014: Submitted request to FEMA (umbrella under which the National Flood Insurance Agency operates) to lower our insurance premiums based on our new and improved flood savvy house. They rejected this request citing we required one additional flood vent.
Had additional flood vent installed.
FEMA again rejected our request to lower our rates. This time it was because the wrong box had been checked on our elevation certificate (final survey) sighting the source of our base flood elevation level.
In other words, they needed to confirm that we didn’t just make up some numbers to make it sound good.
Skip this section if your eyes start to roll back in your head or you suddenly feel like you need to nap. The source of the base flood elevation (BFE) MUST come from FIS or FIRM (Flood Insurance Rate Map) for your specific property.
Returned to my surveyor, spoke with the Flood Plan Manager for my city and resubmitted the forms to FEMA. They requested yet another form, a flood application form, be completed. I thought this was odd as we’ve had flood insurance for over 10 years. FEMA insisted it was the protocol. Fine.
April 2014: The next hurdle: FEMA/NFIP wanted the square footage of our garage, despite the fact that is attached to our house, they have pictures of it, and they have a survey marking it. I should clarify that these conversations were between NFIP and my insurance agent. After spending weeks sending my insurance agent down a rabbit hole, I recommend she educate herself on this product (flood insurance), take the bull by the horns, and tell them what’s what. They have all the information, we’ve crossed every i and dotted every t, you have more important things to do than run around chasing your tail all day.
Mission Accomplished: Our insurance agent called and told me our paperwork had finally been accepted and that our flood insurance rates were going to drop from several thousand dollars per year to several hundred.
The clouds parted, beams of sunshine shone down and a collective sigh could be heard across the phone lines. Then my agent told me she had to go – she was getting ready to watch a webinar on flood insurance.